Monday, March 27, 2017

Things to Do in Paris After You’ve Seen Everything There is to See

I’m scared to death to return to Paris. I know what you’re thinking, but no, that’s not the reason. I suppose there’s plenty about which to be nervous. Those things do make me nervous. But the truth is, I’m afraid that if I return to Paris, I will never want to leave.

Next week, I am going back to Paris. It’s an unexpected trip. A surprise of sorts.

I spent ten days in Paris this past December, when The Hubs and I locked up our apartment for the last time and gave the keys back to its rightful owner. I’m a cold resilient person, and the experience itself was emotionally tolerable, but during the last seven days of that trip, I contracted the world’s most horrible case of Food Intoxication, which - for my American readers - is synonymous with food poisoning. Therefore, my final days in my adopted city were spent in a hotel room (our apartment was infested with movers)… puking, coughing up blood, pooping, shivering, cursing, puking some more, crying, and lamenting my unfortunate situation. There was this one time - and I had to - that I left the hotel to manage our movers, and I literally shit my pants on the metro. But yanno what? We don’t have to talk about that.

So a few weeks ago, I learned I would get another shot at it. Because Paris is always a good idea, and all that. Of course, I’m happy to see my old friends, who supported me during a time that is almost unthinkable now, so horribly debilitating, and yet, while I was living it, while I had the devotion of these extraordinary women, seemed an absolute cinch. (New to my blog and don’t know what I’m referring to? Click here). But visiting Paris now will give me one more chance to explore this city, this refuge, this womb. Like a tourist? Perhaps. I suppose I will be a tourist who speaks French slang, drinks carafe d’eau, and avoids the Chatelet metro station, but the fact remains, I will be a tourist. Because Paris is no longer my home.

And so I bring you…

An Ex-Ex-Expat’s To Do List while Visiting Paris

Take The Hubs to Lafayette’s Grave (Picpus Cemetery)

Really, Picpus Cemetery deserves a whole ‘nother blog post where I can properly explain just how special it is. I will write that someday. In the meantime, here’s the dumbed down description. A whole buncha decapitated people were buried here - in mass graves - during the French Revolution. This is reason alone for visiting Picpus Cemetery and reflecting on the insanity of human history. But the silver lining of this elusive place is that General Lafayette is buried here, and an American flag continuously flies over his grave, which is maintained by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Why is this an elusive place? Unfortunately Fortunately Unfortunately, no one seems to know about it (or care). It’s a bit off the beaten path, and it’s opening hours are few and far between.

I visited Picpus Cemetery solo in July 2014, but The Hubs has never been. The two of us are mildly obsessed with Lafayette, so I need to get his ass to Picpus.

If you go, Opening Hours are very limited: Tuesday through Sunday, usually from 2-6, mid-April to August. From October to mid-April it is open 2-4. It is closed on holidays, Mondays, and in September, and for the U.S. Fourth of July celebration when there is a ceremony featuring the US ambassador and high ranking Embassy officials. It’s best to call first, because these hours are not guaranteed. Vive la France.

Photograph Rue Crémieux

Rue Crémieux is one of the most beautiful residential streets in Paris, mostly because the houses are delightfully colorful and decorated with beautiful flowers and vines. This is unusual for Paris, whose standardized Haussmannian buildings are uniformly the same design, size, and color, and that color is grey, which on a lot of days, matches the color of the sky, and every day, the color of Parisian fashion. I’m generalizing, but if you’ve spent any significant amount of time in Paris, you know what I mean. Rue Crémieux is a lovely technicolor escape to a whole different world.

But how would I know? Even after living in Paris for 3+ years, I never visited Rue Crémieux. It’s slightly off the beaten path with no metro station in the immediate vicinity and not a whole heck of a lot of other tourist destinations within walking distance. It’s one of those places I always said the-next-time-I’m-over-in-that-direction, but it never happened. Since this could actually be my last trip to Paris (at least for the foreseeable future), this gem is definitely on my To-Do List.

Leave a Note for Marie Curie

The Panthéon, located in the heart of the Latin Quarter, houses the graves of the most noble scientists, artists, historians, philosophers, writers, and highly regarded intellectuals in France’s recent history. It’s a powerful place, not only because the likes of Voltaire and Victor Hugo are buried there, but also because it’s a stunning work of architecture. The magnificent dome of the Panthéon offers superior views of the Paris skyline, but the dome was closed for renovations almost the entire time I lived there. It reopened shortly before I moved back to America, but I had just been to the Panthéon the week before that, and I wasn’t quite ready to pay another admission fee, so I resigned myself to “missing out.”

This time, when I go back to Paris, I definitely want to climb the stairs to the dome of the Panthéon and experience that beautiful Paris skyscape. But more importantly, I want to go down into the crypt and leave an intimate note on the tomb of Marie Curie.

My youngest son was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma while we were living in Paris. He was treated at Institut Curie, which is mere steps from the Panthéon. For six months, while my son received his chemotherapy infusions, I looked at the Panthéon through a hospital window. In every kind of weather, through winter, spring, and summer, the Panthéon was my view. I took my son to the Panthéon to see Marie Curie’s grave, but I regret that we didn’t leave a note. This time, I will.

I’m not sure what I will write to Marie Curie, but I will definitely thank her for boldly breaking gender boundaries and for creating the teaching hospital where my son was cured of cancer.

Write in a Café on the Place de la Contrescarpe

Walking along Rue Mouffetard is one of the most charming things you will ever do in Paris. This ancient, cobblestone street is located a few beautiful blocks from Institut Curie, meaning the soles of my shoes became quite familiar with it. My son’s absolute favorite crêperie, La Petite Bretonne is located dead center. Near the end of our time in Paris, we fell in love with the Café Delmas on the Place de la Contrescarpe, at the heart of Rue Mouffetard. My son and I enjoyed many leisurely dinners here after long days of doctor's appointments and tests. Of course, any writer worth her merits knows that Ernest Hemingway lived footsteps from this bustling square, and he commonly spent his afternoons writing in the cafés here. Since I was always with my son in this part of town, we spent more time conversing than creating. But next week when I visit Paris, even if it’s just for an hour, I intend to sit my ass down and write at least 500 words toward my novel while conjuring up the ghost of Papa Hemingway. I owe that to myself.

Hike - One Last Time - in the French Countryside near Paris

One of my favorite activities while living in France was taking long hikes in the countryside. Once a month, my girlfriends and I met at an RER station early in the morning, and we didn’t return to Paris until dinnertime. We logged between 10 - 15 miles and tried different trails and locations each time. It happens that this month’s Girlfriend Hike is planned for next week. I feel very fortunate that I can come along, one last unexpected time!

Find My Name in Shakespeare and Company

Well, I mean, where my name will eventually go.

Eat a Fucking Cauliflower at Miznon

Do you even know me? Then this requires no explanation.

Reflect in the Jardin Anne-Frank

The Anne Frank Garden was opened ten years ago near the Pompidou in the Marais. This neighborhood was a frequent stomping ground for me during my tenure in Paris, and I always told myself I would stop by the garden, but I never did. Truth be told, it’s a little hard to find - not that I actively looked for it, but you don’t just happen to wander past it. You really need to load it into your smart maps and promise yourself to go.

From the pictures I’ve seen and personal anecdotes from my friends, the Jardin Anne-Frank is splendid. Perhaps one of the most meaningful things about the garden is the chestnut tree, which grew from a sapling taken from the chestnut tree Anne Frank repeatedly mentioned in her diary. I think that’d be kinda special to see, so since I’ll be in Paris and all, I should see it, right?

Besides that, it’s springtime, and all the pretty flowers will be in bloom. The only thing better than Springtime in Paris is… Steve Levy. (It’s a Philly thing. Never mind).

Cross Every Bridge on the Canal Saint Martin

I’ve probably crossed every bridge on the Canal Saint Martin at one time or another, but just for the heck of it, I’d like to do it in sequential order. That has to be good exercise.

Attend Morning Mass at St. Joe’s

An average of two mornings per week (sometimes more, sometimes less) over the course of three-plus years, I walked to the 8:30 AM mass at St. Joe’s. I started doing this the very first week that I arrived in Paris for the simple fact that I wanted to hear English, and I wanted something that felt familiar. Over time, it became my favorite way to tackle the sunrise. Attending early, English-speaking mass on a weekday kept me grounded, gave me a basis on which to start my day, and got me out of the apartment even on the ickiest, greyest, rainiest Parisian mornings. To be honest, one of the things I miss the most is this calming, centering ritual. I need to make the time to attend a morning mass at Saint Joe’s every return-trip to Paris. It’s great for my mental health!

Allow Myself To Say Goodbye Gracefully

I don’t need to walk past my old apartment. I don’t have to visit my old haunts. I’ll remind myself those kinds of endeavors are nothing more than a waste of my time. I’ve moved on from Paris, away from Paris. Now, I live in suburban Philadelphia. I drive my son to high school every morning. I play roller derby. I see my mom and dad regularly. And The Bestie? Shit. She’s just down the road. We’ve had so many lunches in the past six months, I’d actively blame her for my five pound weight gain, except that we always check the calorie counts, which is just one of the many reasons I love her. These are truly great things. These are things worth coming home for. Home. Which is. Pennsylvania.

Not Paris.

1 comment:

  1. So good to have you home, mon ami.
    Us Irish girls have to stick together.